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The Artist’s Journey: John Ahlin - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

The Artist’s Journey: John Ahlin

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Each week, The Artist’s Journey will provide an insider look at the creation of a production, from first rehearsal to opening night, through the eyes of one of the show’s key players.

John Ahlin is playing “Angus MacLeod” in the world premiere-comedy A Dram of Drummhicit. Some of his credits include Waiting for Godot, Journey’s End (2007 Tony Award Best Revival), The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Voices in the Dark (directed by Christopher Ashley), One Mo’ Time, Whoopee! and Macbeth.

Polly Lee (Fiona), John Ahlin (Angus) and Lucas Hall (Charles) in A Dram of Drummhicit

Part Six: Curtain Call

Marie Antoinette, mindful of appearances, reputedly said to her servants hastily packing their coach as the revolution approached: “Don’t rush; they’ll think we’re fleeing.” I’ve been in many shows I couldn’t wait to escape, but not so A Dram of Drummhicit. I kinda wish I could stay at the Playhouse forever, but all plays end so I must say “Farewell, La Jolla.” The sardonic truth of an actor’s life is the more he loses his job, the more successful he is. It means he’s working often. But for me, I have one week of Dram, then back to scratch, where I’m scheduled to be unemployed for the rest of my life. It’s moments like these that I bring out a favorite actors tool: comportment. It was a favorite of Eleanor Roosevelt’s as well; “It’s how you carry yourself that’s important,” she advised. How hard you work in your alone time allows you to be gracious in public. And now, with buckets of alone time and a career careening precipitously, I’ll keep appearances and not panic, but rather toil upward in the night, plotting ways to keep this career of mine on track and get that phone to ring.

During a curtain call it’s fairly clear that the audience applause is appreciation, but I think we actors have been describing our part in it all wrong this whole time. I think we’re “giving” a bow, not “taking” one. I think it is a gesture of humility…a way to express simple gratitude. It is tempting to make this final blog a stuffy show of knowledge (like quoting Marie Antoinette and Eleanor Roosevelt in the same paragraph) or some kind of valedictory tying up everything like a Shakespeare Fifth Act, but, as in acting, I think the simplest choice is often best.

So a simple thank you goes to La Jolla Playhouse and Chris Ashley in both his hats as Director and Artistic Director. He inspires a perfect theatre environment: a coercion-free collaboration of individuals creating something to show before a voluntary audience…this is theatre as it should be. And that the Playhouse is so devoted to new works makes this place a national treasure. A new play is a mirror that shows us things we didn’t see before. It has been my honor to work here. And to the entire Playhouse staff and Dram crew I avow that I feel proud to give a bow at the end of the play as I’m representing you all. I give you a million thanks for the million thankless things you put into the success of this play and this jewel of a theater.

I thank San Diego for being glorious and full of wonder. The Padres game we attended gave me my fix of haplessness, as I can’t be near my futile Mets. I thank the four foot snake that slithered under my feet while bird watching in Rose Canyon (I hope I’m in his nightmares as much as he’s in mine). And I thank the richest bounty this area produces: the warm, smart audiences that come to see the plays. It has been a pleasure to make theatre with you.

Finally, I’d like to thank my fellow actors. They are inspiring, fun, a joy to work with, colossally skilled and giving. I pay them my highest compliment by saying: they are good actors. The six wonderful young cast members from UCSD’s Masters Acting Program have each asked me, the grizzled veteran, what advice I’d give, and so as an answer to them – and to myself as I face my unknown future – I’d like to draw the curtain on this blog with some advice, randomly strewn like so many apple seeds, but from the bottom of my heart nonetheless: Everything is a lesson…everything is a measure of character. Don’t worry about the shadow you cast because when you focus on shadows you are not walking toward the light. Finding the right verb is important in life: Employ Tenacity … Indulge Curiosity … Demand Freedom … Earn Respect … Wield Courage … Make Opportunity … Test Destiny. Create in every direction, treat your dreams as real things, read, work hard, be kind and think big. Do all this and that phone call will come…if you remember, contrary to every preshow admonition, to turn your cell phone “on.”